Friday, December 30, 2022 4:59 PM
Smart ice fishers always have their backs to the wind. (submitted photo)
The fishing diary I’ve kept for nearly 40 years says we have experienced the best year in the Driftless since 2015. Results so far this month have not been stellar. But it was still possible to get out on the River in a boat til just a couple of days ago.
Shallow, quiet areas away from current have enough ice to lightfoot across. Two inches of ice is considered marginally safe for foot traffic. Get away from shore 20 feet and you might find three inches.
The smart play is to wait a couple more days – or send your know-it-all buddy out on the ice first.
Sixty years of serious ice fishing has revealed the more you get out on the water, the less you really know. Throwing big rocks on the ice from the safety of shore doesn’t really work.
Probing ahead of your steps with an ice spud right now isn’t much better, besides confirming that cloudy or snow-covered ice supports about half as much weight as clear stuff. Asking kin by marriage that is convulsing with laughter on shore for help is more humiliating than an unscheduled baptism.
Better to tiptoe out there wearing ice cleats, and pair of res-q-picks over the shoulders of your floatation coat than ask for help in a voice two octaves above your normal tone.
Once you realize the water is really, really cold get your body as horizontal as possible to spread out body weight to pull yourself to “safe” ice by using the picks.
Going fishing with a buddy instead of solo is a smart idea. Nice to have a witness there to confirm you are an idiot is somehow reassuring. Experience teaches the wisdom of keeping 50 feet of floating rope secured beneath the handle of a six-gallon bucket as a rescue throw enhances a post-event “told you so” conversation.
Don’t go out there on the ice with gear you’re not afraid to lose until serious winter arrives. Electronic ‘fish finders’ cost hundreds of dollars. They are of little value in less than four feet of water where fish are cruising now, anyway.
A three-foot-long ice fishing pole with a spring bobber strike indicator keeps your eyes focused on business instead of a flashing dial. A basic auger is all you need to grind a hole—unless your brother-in-law insists you carry his new $400 lithium ice drill.
There should be plenty of “safe” ice by Christmas. Hope the brother-in-law appreciates that dusty bottle of Hai Karate aftershave.
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